Biblical Tithe: It’s More (and Less) Than You Think It Is
- Monday, October 28, 2013
I’ll be blunt: I think there might be a few too many articles on tithing in the Christian internet community.
Don’t get me wrong, I think money is a critical thing for believers to explore and discuss, and it’s no surprise to me that tithing is such a hot topic. But endless hamster-wheel repetitions of the same key phrases sometimes do more to feed our own assumptions than to actually shed light on biblical truths.
Maybe you tithe. Maybe you don’t. No matter what, this discussion isn’t about judgment. Rather, it’s a chronology of my own biblical exploration of money, Christ, Mosaic Law, Jewish nationality, and the ancient, important collection of Scriptures we call the Bible.
So, are you curious about the biblical relationship between money and Christians? About giving and tithing and what Jesus even had to say about it all? I was.
Part One: The Tithe.
“God Tells Us To Tithe.”
A tithe, as you probably know, refers to “a tenth” of something. In Genesis 14, we read an account of Abraham offering Melchizedek a tenth of the spoils their armies had won after defeating the armies of Kedorlaomer. Later, in Genesis 28, Jacob has a dream where God promises to give land, blessing, and prosperity to Jacob’s descendants. Overcome with gratitude when he wakes, Jacob promises God a tithe of all his future profits if those things truly do come to pass.
These tithes were spontaneous acts of thankfulness. It wasn’t until the time of Moses that God began requiring a tithe of the Israelite nation, and even then, there are many biblical directives on the tithe that I certainly never heard growing up in church!
For the Poor, For the Levites, and For Remembrance
Some passages detailing the Israelite tithe are Deuteronomy 12, 14, and 26. Deuteronomy 12 begins with a command that, as long as the Israelites dwell in the Promised Land, they are to worship the LORD properly and follow his instructions, including the command to tithe.
But what was the tithe, exactly?
According to Deuteronomy 14:22-29, it was “a tenth of all that your fields produce each year” – a tenth of “grain, new wine and oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks.” This specification is echoed by Deuteronomy 26:1-15. The tithe (and there were multiple different yearly tithes) was instituted when the Israelites entered the land that God had promised them (aka The “Promised Land”) and was meant specifically to be a law tied to their residence in said land.
But why? The Deuteronomist gives three key reasons for the institution of the tithe:
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